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Your Questions: I have not been able to check our holiday home - will that be a problem?



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Question: I own a holiday home in Kerry that I have not been able to visit recently due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Will my house insurance still stand in the event of a claim if I have not been able to check the property in the last 30 days?

Answer:  As holiday homes typically remain unoccupied for the greater part of the year (the current climate notwithstanding), a robust insurance policy is vital for the safety and overall security of your property, both materially and financially.

Typical holiday home cover will insure you in case of fire, burst pipes and water damage, or break-ins, according to the managing director of Insuremyhouse.ie, Jonathan Hehir. One of the key elements of holiday home cover generally is that all services (gas, electricity, water) must be switched off when the home is not occupied, Mr Hehir said. If homeowners have doubts about this status in a property, he recommends trying to resolve this, perhaps through a local third party.

There is also a common stipulation among insurers that owners check their properties once every 30 days as part of their cover. However, as you mention, property owners have not been able to go about their regular checks given the current public restrictions. Some insurers have indicated they will extend this period from 30 days up to 60 days.

Question: Due to Covid-19 my wife and I are currently working from home. Neither of our employers is paying us an e-worker allowance, but I understand we can claim e-working tax relief at the end of the year to cover the cost of our utilities and broadband. Does this relief apply to the household (ie only one application accepted per household) or can we both apply separately for this tax relief?

Answer: E-working (also known as home working) is where you work from home for substantial periods on a full or part-time basis. If you have been asked to work from home because of the Covid-19 emergency you may be able to claim tax relief against the cost of home expenses, including electricity, heat and broadband, according to the CEO of Taxback.com, Joanna Murphy. To qualify as an e-worker, you must have a formal agreement with your employer that you are required to work from home or to be required to perform essential duties of employment at home.

You may have extra costs when working from home, including heating, electricity and broadband costs. Your employer can pay you a contribution towards these costs, or you can make a claim for tax relief at the end of the year, Ms Murphy said.

Revenue's rate for the cost of running a home office is 10pc of the total cost. This means that you can claim 10pc of the total amount of allowable utility bills against your taxes. This is available only for those days that you work from home. This does not include times you may have brought work home to do outside your normal working hours. If your employer pays you an allowance towards your expenses, the amount paid is deducted from the amount you can claim back from Revenue. You both can apply for the e-working expenses relief as there is no restriction limiting the relief to only one worker per household, she added. This is a personal relief, so you may be able to claim tax relief against the cost of home expenses for you and your spouse, based on the fact you both are working from your home.

Question: My 28-year-old son has recently returned from abroad and I'm encouraging him to take out private cover for his family. However, he is adamant that the public health services are free to use and doesn't see the value in joining. Is he correct?

Answer: Unfortunately this is not the case, according to broker Dermot Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie. Unless you have a medical card, all people accessing our public health services must pay the €100 public A&E charge and the €80 per night in-patient charge, which is capped at €800 maximum per year, according to Mr Goode. They also have to contend with public hospital waiting lists which could lead to lengthy delays trying to access non-essential medical treatment. Your son can purchase entry level plans costing around €500 per adult from each insurer, but Mr Goode recommends mid-level plans covering public and private hospitals. These include the Irish Life Health Benefit Plan (€965), the VHI One Plan 250 (€926) or the Laya Essential Health 300 (€997 per adult).

There is a common stipulation among insurers that owners check their properties once every 30 days, but some insurers have relaxed this to 60 days due to the pandemic.

If your employer is not giving you the tax-free home worker payment of €3.20 a day you may be able to claim 10pc of the cost of running your home if you are e-working.

Irish Independent